Everything You Need To Know About Your Fifth Amendment Rights

Everything You Need To Know About Your Fifth Amendment Rights

The Fifth Amendment protects several rights you have that apply in the legal system. It gives you the right to remain silent and prevents “double jeopardy” and more.

What the Fifth Amendment says.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Your fifth amendment rights protect you from self-incrimination.
Image courtesy of Semen Salivanchuk at iStockphoto.com.

What the Fifth Amendment means.

The Fifth Amendment includes many protections that help make sure you have a fair trial. Courts are clear, though, that you are only entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial. Still, the protections provided by the Fifth Amendment are very important.

  • Double Jeopardy. The government cannot charge you with the same crime twice. For instance, imagine you go to trial on a criminal charge but are not convicted. The government cannot then re-charge you with that same crime based on the same actions again. This is true even if the government finds more evidence after trial.
  • Self-Incrimination. Government officials cannot force you to testify against yourself. This means that, during a police questioning or trial, you have the right to remain silent. People invoke this right when they “plead the Fifth.”
  • Due Process of Law. The Due Process Clause protects your life, liberty or property. It prevents the government from taking those things without giving you a fair opportunity to be heard.
  • Just Compensation. The concept of just compensation applies more in civil, not criminal, cases. But, the general idea is that the government must pay you for your property if they take it for pubic use. This is different than if they take it because someone used it in a crime or is illegal.

How Fifth Amendment rights apply to people in prison.

The Fifth Amendment’s protections focus on what happens before a criminal conviction. But, you do not lose your Fifth Amendment rights after a conviction. They just look a little different in prison.

  • Double Jeopardy. The Double Jeopardy Clause does not apply to in-prison discipline. Imagine that you commit a crime by doing something that also violates a prison rule. In that case, prison officials may punish you. But you could face criminal charges, too.
  • Self-Incrimination. In prison, you still have the right to remain silent. This means that government officials can’t force you to admit anything. This is true even if you are in prison. You can also remain silent during things like parole hearings, too.
  • Due Process of Law. In-prison hearings are very different from court hearings. But there are still basic fairness rules. Prison officials may accuse you of a rule violation. If they do, they should give you notice of the allegations and a chance for a hearing.

What you can do if prison officials violate your Fifth Amendment rights.

Your Fifth Amendment rights look very different in prison than on the outside. But you still have legal protections, including the right to remain silent. Government officials may try to get you to talk about things that might lead to more charges. If they do, you can assert your Fifth Amendment rights and your right to a lawyer.

You also still have due-process rights. If prison officials charge you with a rule violation, you have the right to notice of the charges and a hearing. At the hearing, you can present evidence, witnesses and a defense.

Your fifth amendment rights prevent you from facing double jeopardy.
Image courtesy of Motortion at iStockphoto.com.

The Takeaway:

The Fifth Amendment includes many protections that help you before a criminal conviction. But your Fifth Amendment rights don’t go away because you went to prison. Government officials cannot force you to say something that might incriminate yourself. And they also must give you notice and an opportunity to be heard if they charge you with a rule violation.

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